Portland, Oregon’s largest city, sits on the Columbia and Willamette rivers, in the shadow of snow-capped Mount Hood. It’s known for its parks, bridges, and bicycle paths, as well as for its eco-friendliness and its microbreweries and coffeehouses. Iconic Washington Park encompasses sites from the formal Japanese Garden to The city hosts thriving art, theater, and music scenes.
If you have been thinking of visiting the Pacific North-West, you cannot leave Portland out. Just the slogan “Keep Portland Weird” is enough to awaken anyone’s curiosity to find out if it is really as out there as Portlanders are proud to indicate, and as portrayed in the TV series “Portlandia” and “Grimm”. You may also be wondering about affordability and how to budget for a Portland trip, most of us have had to tighten our purse strings with the impact of the pandemic.
We want to assure you that Portland is both very reasonable and a lot more than eccentric; it has access to breathtaking scenery and a wide range of cultural and social events. Below, we have looked at costs for a 3-day weekend stay in peak and off-peak season for a single traveler, a couple, and a family with 2 children under 12. Of course, you may wish to stay longer, it’s impossible to see everything Portland has to offer in such a short stay, but this gives a good indication of overall costs.
Also, although it has a way to go, as do most cities, Portland is working on making the city welcome for all, so we have focused on accommodation and activities that are accessible. Here is how to budget for a trip to Portland Oregon…
When and where to stay for all budgets
For City Slickers
Portland is known as the Rose City, and June is when all the roses are out and the Rose Festival is in full swing. Starting on the last Friday in May, the Festival runs over 3-4 weeks and if you want to be there for the opening or any of the events, expect to pay top dollar for accommodation. Even so, hotels are surprisingly reasonable, at around $200 per night, which can go down to half that out of season.
For a short stay, the best place to stay is downtown, or maybe the nearby Pearl district. Portland is very walkable and there is lots to do and see downtown. While there are cheaper options, we would like to recommend two hotels, because they are historic and will enhance your vacation experience. Portland is proud of its vintage hotels, where you can get an idea of days gone by in this friendly city.
The Heathman Hotel dates from the Art Deco period and is a medium-priced accessible hotel based in Downtown Portland, which makes it a great base for exploring the nearby museums and Washington Park. The hotel may be old, but all amenities are up to date, with free WiFi available.
Indicated hotel costs for the Heathman Hotel for a 3-night weekend. The in-season prices are based on the opening weekend of the Rose Festival. The out of season prices are first weekend in January:-
In Season Out of season
Single traveler $605 $388
Couple $605 $388
Family with 2 children (2 rooms with queen beds) $1210 $566
Mobility and Hearing Accessible Queen room $ 605 $274
Some other historic downtown hotels in a similar price range are:-
Getting Away From it All
Portland is situated in such a scenic area, and if you are a nature lover, rather than a city mouse, why not choose to stay in the vicinity? There are lots of options to choose from, from rustic log cabins to hotels in the Willamette and Columbia River Valley areas, which are perfect if you want to sample the local wineries, explore the many scenic trails or take a river cruise.
On Lake Oswego is the Lakeside Hotel with an off-season price of $425 for an off-season weekend. It is only 15-30 minutes from downtown Portland by taxi or bus, so you are still close to more urban attractions.
The Columbia Gorge Hotel is a vintage hotel overlooking the Hood River Valley. It is about 80km from Portland, but definitely a place to calm a bruised and battered soul. Rooms start at $100 per night out of season.
Budgeting for getting around Portland
Even if you have a car, there are two cool options and very budget-friendly options for you to consider; walking and cycling. Nothing beats walking around for soaking up the vibes that make a city. The pavements downtown are well-maintained, so walking and rolling in the neighborhood are recommended, no need to get transport, but there is plenty of that.
It is easy to hire a bike, and with over 550 km of bike lanes and bike-friendly streets in one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US, you might be tempted to spend a day seeing the city on 2 wheels. You can go it alone, or join a bike tour from one of the several bike touring companies. There are also some biking events, like the Zoobomb, a zany bicycle downhill run mainly on kids’ bikes in Washington Park, held every Sunday night. You don’t even need to bring a bike, you can borrow one of the Zoobomb pile. This is just as much fun for spectators as the participants.
For a more sane approach to biking, Everybody’s Bike Rental can provide you with racing or mountain bikes from $45 a day to $165 for 3 days. For those who want the fun without the effort, hire an e-bike starting at $60 for 24 hours to $105 for 3 days.
Portland bicycle tours accommodate children from 10 upwards and have standard and custom tours. The Essential Portland tour lasts 2 hours and costs from $39 to $84, where the high-end price includes keeping the bike, with kit, until 6 pm for doing your own thing.
Portland has a rail, streetcar and bus service, all of which help you get around cheaply and swiftly. You do not need a car to explore the city with all these options.
Payment is fast and easy, either with the Hop card or the Hop mobile app, available from Trimet, the management company. Prices are based on time rather than distance, so an adult (18-64) card costs $2.50 for 2 1/2 hours travel. Senior citizens and children get the same deal for $1.25. What is more, if you buy 2 tickets in the same day ($5.00 for adults), you automatically have a full-day pass. The Portland Streetcar service started in 2001 and has modern streetcars, which also can be paid for with a Hop Card. There is also the Clark County public transport system which uses the Hopcard and takes you around the county as well as within Portland.
All buses, streetcars and light rail trains are wheelchair friendly, as are the stations, and the fares are basically the same as for senior citizens.
Taxis and Uber and Lyft are available, if you prefer private transport, rates are the same as for most large US Cities.
Mobility for Wheelchairs
Portland has a program called PDX WAV that is designed to accommodate people with limited mobility. It is a dial-up service that enables you to request a taxi that is both accessible for wheelchairs and has a trained driver who understands your requirements both for yourself and your wheelchair. The service has about a 30-minute wait time.
The Portland Aerial Tram
For just $5, enjoy an aerial view of Portland from this ride; it’s definitely more about the journey than the destination. You can even glimpse Mt St Helens and Mount Hood on clear days.
Where to eat and drink to suit all budgets
Portland is a foodies’ delight, with street stalls, farmers’ markets, food courts, and lots of culinary adventures available. Being situated in a Wineland area, there are many Pacific North-West varietals and blends to try, and as for beer, this is the city of craft beers.
You may be used to eating in restaurants or at fast-food outlets when you travel; we recommend being more adventurous and trying Portland’s food carts (there are 500 registered food carts around the city, many organized in “pods” like the interestingly named Hawthorne Asylum) or the markets.
We would estimate the average food costs per day per person at $35-40, with alcoholic drinks around $10-15, but of course this is a very variable cost, especially in a city for gourmets and gourmands. Some places we recommend are:-
- Voodoo Doughnuts. Both famous and notorious for its unusual doughnuts, this is a must-visit, even if you do not have a sweet tooth, although it is very touristy.
- Blue Star Doughnuts has three outlets that offer doughnuts for adults, with flavors for those who prefer something more savory.
- If you crave Latin food, the Portland Mercado offers ethnic delicacies from many regions of Latin America. It is also a great place to wander around and enjoy the different cultures, and there are often events and festivals, from mariachi bands to salsa dances.
- The Portland Spirit has short city cruises and longer Columbia Gorge excursions. There is an excellent restaurant aboard that offers brunch, lunch, and dinner menus, well worth a splurge, with fresh local ingredients and a menu that varies from day to day based on those ingredients and what is in season. The cost is actually very reasonable, for instance, brunch sounds pricey at $64, but this includes the cruise and bottomless mimosas or cider! There are vegan and special dietary options, children are accommodated at half-price, and the cruises are wheelchair accessible.
A few things to see and do (and budgeting for it)
You could easily spend a month discovering Portland and its surroundings, but here are some top attractions for those of us with limited leisure time. Access to many of the attractions below are free (like Washington Park) or have an average entry fee of $10, so seeing the sights is not going to break your budget.
Conveniently situated near to downtown Portland, Washington Park contains many attractions, including the Test Rose Garden, the Hoyt Arboretum, and the Portland Japanese garden. The Rose Garden, with its 10 000 bushes, and Hoyt Arboretum are free. The Japanese Garden admission is about $20, but also includes an art center, which holds exhibitions of Japanese arts and culture.
To see all these sights could take up the whole weekend, and you have the options of free or paid entrance. For the energetic, the Hoyt Arboretum contains 20 km of hiking trails and 2 3000 plant and tree species, while Washington Park itself has memorials and sites of interest you can visit. For the kids, there is a Children’s Garden next to the Rose Garden. You do not have to walk for miles either, there is a free shuttle service that takes you around the park with pick-ups and drop-offs at sites of interest.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)
The OMSI has various scientific exhibits and houses the Kendall Planetarium and theatres showing IMAX and other movies. Entrance to the general museum is $15, with tickets for an adult to the planetarium and other shows at $7.50. There is more than enough to spend a day at OMSI.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
You can imagine you are in Suzhou when you visit this Chinese Garden, which is not surprising because it is the fruit of a collaboration between Portland and its sister city in China. This ming-style garden was built by Chinese specialists and is a place of peace and tranquillity. The $10 admission fee is well worth the price. It is also a recommended destination for wheelchair travelers. Enjoy fine Chinese fair trade tea in the Tea House.
Powell’s City of Books
The bookworm’s Mecca, this multistorey shop is reputed to contain more than a million new and second-hand books, and is probably one of the world’s most famous bookstores. This is an awesome free attraction in Portland, just leave your wallet behind if you love books!
Adding it all up – what kind of budget do I need for a trip to Portland?
Of course, costs will vary, depending on what you want to do and where you want to stay (your major cost), but you should be able to have a really great holiday at a cost of $150-$250 per day per person. It’s possible to get this down to around $100 a day per person (or even under) if you’re much more budget conscious and stick to lower price things to do. One of your biggest expenses will be accommodation so if you have a family then seek out family-friendly extended stays or self-catering places for better value.
Transport is so affordable, many of the attractions are free to enter and food, especially from food carts and markets is very affordable. Drinks and night-time attractions are not included here, as these costs can vary from person to person, as are travel costs to Portland. Enjoy your stay!